Solar System project

Venus stationThis is my recent adaptation for the scale model of the solar system project which I have been working on for some time now. Each of the traditional planets in the solar system (including Pluto), are represented in sculptural installations called ‘stations’.

This is the ‘tripole’ configuration.

The pole on the left of the picture has the planet object mounted on top (a peppercorn in this case).

The pole on the right will have a plaque explaining what the planet/ project is all about. The top of the pole is slanted, with a view screen to display slides/ pictures.

Speakers and a sound system may also be intergrated into both of these poles. This would add to the interactive element of the sculpture.

The pole at the back is the ‘signifier’. This is a banner or flag that makes the planet station visible from a distance. In this case, a ‘Fly ban’ outdoor banner is used.  The height will be increased the farther away the planet station is.

Directional fingerboards made from 2×4’s or plywood are attached to the poles.  These indicate the distance between the planets and the direction of the next planet station. Ideally, both of these fingerboards should move on a pivot like the hands of a clock, so that direction can be easily changed.

Sun stationThe next station depicted represents the Sun. The main difference here is that the Sun is an inflatable soccer ball held in place with wire.

Fibreoptics will represent coronas from the surface of the Sun. The soccer ball is illuminated from the interior at night. El-wire is also wrapped around the soccer ball, to assist with night-time illumination.


Illumination will be comprised of LEDs and El-wire. Holes throughout the posts will allow battery powered LED X-mas lights to represent ‘stars’. Yellow El-wire could be used for the lettering on the planet-object pedestal, to illuminate the exterior of the plaque, and possibly for the banner. Channel LEDs would be necessary if the plaque would be legible at night.

Motion detectors would be useful to help illuminate certain parts whenever someone walked by. Perhaps the motion detector LEDs could illuminate the plaque, or the mp3 player. It also adds to the interactive element.

With the exception of the Solar station, the planet-object pedestals would be illuminated at night with solar powered LED path lights. The plaque pedestals might have a hand operated crank connected to a dynamo and battery if they are to house any kind of a picture/ sound show.

The ‘signifiers’ (Fly ban) would have to have something like a flashing xenon bulb on top of them, to be visible from a distance. The xenon bulb from a disposable camera might suffice for this. However, it would have to be contained within something like an opaque bowl, as well as fitted with a flash shield. I am thinking of a glow in the dark frisbee for this.

Sound/ picture show:

If the sculpture is outfitted with a sound/ picture show, I have already been given permission to use David Hickney’s paiste gongs for the four rocky planets. The four gaseous planets have their own ‘sound’, which was interpreted by the Voyager spacecraft’s computers.

Deciding what pictures to show is difficult. Either these could be pictures of the planet rotating, such as through a praxinoscope, or slides of something related to space travel, which would be more like a kinetescope. A lot of it depends on the message I want to portray.  I do like the idea of portraying the solar system as it would look in a thousand years, colonized by humans.

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